As a graduate of Career Step’s Professional Medical Coding and Billing program, you will receive a voucher that allows you to sit for one AHIMA or AAPC certification exam of your choice. You are eligible to sit for the following exams:
- Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
- Certified Coding Specialist-Physician Based (CCS-P)
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Certified Outpatient Coder (COC)
Eligibility for an exam means you have met the minimum requirements that allow you to test. However, it’s important to understand that eligibility does not necessarily indicate sufficient preparation to successfully pass a specific exam.
Know Your Strengths
Coding proficiency varies among graduates. You may find that you have a natural affinity for all things related to coding; however, most graduates have specific areas of strength or interest. For instance, you may excel at CPT coding while struggling with assignment of ICD-10-PCS codes. You may find principal diagnosis selection for inpatient coding to be a stimulating challenge, or you may find it intimidating and be more comfortable assigning codes for a straightforward reason for encounter. As such, not every graduate is best suited for every exam they are eligible to take.
To make the best use of your exam voucher, keep in mind that it’s better to take a lower-level certification exam that you are well prepared for and walk away with a marketable certification than to use your voucher in an unsuccessful attempt to pass a higher-level exam you are not ready for.
Choose Your Exam
So, how do you decide which certification exam is right for you?
The first factor you should consider is your Career Step final exam. Your results on the final exam are a good indicator of your overall competency and can help you see specific areas of strength or weakness. Career Step offers final exam consultations scheduled with a coding support instructor. During the consultation, the instructor will cover specific areas of knowledge where you excelled and areas where you could spend more time studying.
You should also take several other factors into consideration when deciding which certification exam to use your voucher for, including:
- Cost of the exam
- Number of attempts allowed (free retake)
- Membership requirements
- Length of the exam
- Focus and complexity of the exam
- Accessibility of testing locations
- CEUs required for recertification
- Cost of recertification
- Level of comfort in taking standardized tests
- Level of coding proficiency in both outpatient and inpatient setting
- Intended setting for future employment
The table below provides key points of information that can be used to compare the exams and make it easier to determine which one is the best fit for you.
|Cost of the exam||Member – $199
Non-Member – $299
|Member – $299
Non-Member – $399
|Member – $299
Non-Member – $399
|Length of exam||100 MC questions||97 MC questions
8 coding scenarios
|97 MC questions
8 coding scenarios
|150 MC questions||150 MC questions|
|Time allotted||2 hours||4 hours||4 hours||5 hours 40 mins||5 hours 40 mins|
|Exam focus||Facility and physician practice based coding competency||Facility based coding mastery (inpatient and outpatient)||Physician practice based coding mastery||Professional-services-based outpatient diagnosis and procedure coding||Facility-based outpatient diagnosis and procedure coding|
|Exam complexity||Entry level||Mastery level||Mastery level||Entry level||Entry level|
|Frequency of exams||Regularly scheduled but must check Pearson Vue’s testing schedule to verify||Regularly scheduled but must check Pearson Vue’s testing schedule to verify||Regularly scheduled but must check Pearson Vue’s testing schedule to verify||Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see when exams are being proctored||Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see when exams are being proctored|
|Testing locations||Pearson Vue testing centers. See AHIMA website for details.||Pearson Vue testing centers. See AHIMA website for details.||Pearson Vue testing centers. See AHIMA website for details.||Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see where exams are being proctored||Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see where exams are being proctored|
|CEUs for recertification||20 CEUs per every 2 yrs||20 CEUs per every 2 yrs||20 CEUs per every 2 yrs||36 CEUs per every 2 yrs||36 CEUs per every 2 yrs|
|Cost of recertification||$218||$218||$218||Annual membership renewal||Annual membership renewal|
* AHIMA uses “scaled scoring”. See the AHIMA Exam Candidate Guide, Appendix E, for additional information
Additionally, the AHIMA and AAPC websites provide an extensive amount of information related to their respective exams, including information to help exam candidates decide which certification is right for them.